Monday, February 02, 2009

Customer Support @ Megacorp

First, about Megacorp: there is no such thing. Megacorp is an imaginary organization which represents all organizations where I or my friends have worked at some point. Many thanks to Ravi Mohan for coming up with the idea.

Megacorp developed a tool/product which was mostly used by its own employees. As the tool was fairly useful it came to be widely adopted. Soon enough there were bug reports, requests for new features and general questions. Initially these requests were managed through phone calls and emails. While convenient in the beginning the situation soon became worse with customers ringing up arbitrary team members to demand help. As things got close to crazy the development team suggested using a single point of contact and some tool like Trac to track such requests.

The new manager heard them out and decided to implement it - albeit with some variations. For starters Trac would not be used. Instead a new all-round-management-reporting system would be "adapted". Said system was the brainchild of the manager, purchased by paying extravagant costs and took months to get up and running. All the while the mayhem continued. Eventually the new system was inaugurated. Users could log new tickets, engineers could view them and so on. There was one major feature change courtesy the Manager. The tickets could only be closed by *whoever initiated it*.

A month or so later the development team got a memo from the manager asking about the large number of open tickets. "Because we can't close them" came the reply. Manager seemed bemused. "Of course *you* cannot close them. I wanted to know why you are not getting them closed by asking the customers". Explanations about the difficulty in doing this were brushed off. Soon the development team were back to working the phones - except this time they were calling the customers and asking them to close the tickets. As most of the customers traveled around for work it was difficult to reach them. Many also seemed reluctant to close tickets as they had not been fixed to "their satisfaction". Some customers had forgotten how to log in or their passwords had expired (the system forced you to change your password every month). They could do nothing until the log in problem had been fixed. Most developers soon gave up.

Several months later it was time for the audit. Manager was surprised to see open tickets which were months old. Finally realizing the futility of trying to get the tickets closed she asked the system administrators to close ALL of them - even those which had legitimate reasons to be open. Ta da! The audit was a huge success.

Last heard the manager was rewarded for successfully introducing the all-round-management-reporting system. The developers and the customers alike dumped the system and were back to calling each other.


Sarath said...

:-) Enjoyed reading it. I completely agree with the manager's idea to let the user close the case. They are the ones who should say whether the change has been implemented correctly or not.The only change that I would have made is to request a response(close/re-open) from the user (by sending automated reminder mails)and then automatically close the case in a week or so if there is no response from him/her(after the developer hits the ball to the user's court)
As far as the manager winning an award for the "Great system implemented" is concerned, I have to say that it is the same story in every "Megacorp" - only the characters change.

Anonymous said...

syed.n shud read this... :D